If left for life on a deserted island, what music would you listen
to? I would listen to seventies rock if the question pertained to
genre. If the question of eternal music preference, to include only
one artist, came up in conversation-I would probably choose Jim Croce.
It occurred to me that some people may have no idea who Jim Croce is
as he has been dead since 1973. My answer would be that Jim Croce
performed such great music that he still seems alive to me and that
he wrote such good music that he still seems relevant to me.
Jim Croce was born in Philadelphia in 1943 and died in an airplane
crash in 1973. In that time he spent his life as a radio announcer,
a truck driver, did some construction labor and collected stories.
The people he wrote of in his music included these stories viewed
through a rebellious personality that afforded Croce two trips
through Army basic training. His first album was released in 1966 and
included the song “Hard-hearted Hannah” and “Steel Rail Blues” which
was written by Gordon Lightfoot. His last album was “I got a name”
and was released posthumously. There was also a compilation album and
songbook titled “Photographs and memories” released about a year
later which is where I come into the picture.
My sister introduced me to Jim Croce’s music. I liked the music right
away; it seemed less than pristine to me and as a farm kid I knew
nothing was ever perfect. Deb had the songbook too, and a guitar,
both of which she allowed me full access. The chords were printed
above the music, not bar chords, but the real thing. Jim Croce’s
music was real and truthful and my lack of precision coupled to
youthful exuberance made it all sound even better to me. I found
myself singing “You don’t mess around with Jim” just this week and
that lack of precision and slightly older exuberance still made it
sound good to my one ear that doesn’t constantly ring. Jim Croce’s
music shines better when polished with truth and emotion as opposed
to precision and perfect timing.
My parents would have been about the age I am at their 25th wedding
anniversary. Some of the Nelson kids sang Croce’s “Time in a Bottle”
as part of the ceremony. “Time in a Bottle” is probably the simplest,
most honest, intimate and stark confession of love from one person to
another I’ve ever heard. I mean to say that you have realized that
spending time and saving memories with just one person is what your
life is about is such a deep and simple truth that it should have a
monument erected in its honor. The chorus includes the words “there
never seems to be enough time to do the things, you want to do once
you find them” which is a powerful reminder to love the one you love
right now because no matter how good your genetics or how well you
age, time and life are both short.
I got a little emotional writing this column so I need a little
splash of lyrical cold water. Maybe some “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” or
“Rapid Roy (the Stock Car Boy) will get me back to being me. Whatever
it takes, it’s gonna be Jim Croce.